Duty, honor and country. No matter what branch of the armed services a veteran belonged to, those three responsibilities follow them throughout their life and beyond.
That’s at the heart of every Honor Guard service conducted by a group of local veterans – a group that spends much of its time motoring across the region to pay respect to former comrades. The Honor Guard veterans range in age and conflict, from World War II to the ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but their mission is the same.
“It’s our way of giving the veterans the honor, respect and dignity they deserve for what they did for the country,” said Bill Lane, a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran and member of the Honor Guard. The group meets at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2423 in Indian Trail, while some members are from the American Legion posts in Waxhaw and Unionville.
The Honor Guard, made up of about 40 local veterans, takes this mission on themselves without the financial backing an effort of this magnitude needs. The veterans attend more than 100 funerals a year, including services for homeless veterans buried in Salisbury – often without any family or friends in attendance. Honor Guard member Donald Adcock, also a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army, said those services can be the most difficult to conduct.
But that doesn’t stop the Honor Guard from attending, playing Taps and firing a salute into the air to remember the life of someone who served their country.
“We are paying the last respects to our fallen brothers,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference what branch of service they are in. If they were in the service, and if we’re requested to be there, we will be there.”
And getting there is what the veterans need help with. Currently the men take their own vehicles, attending funerals as far away as Salisbury and throughout Mecklenburg and Union counties. They would like to have a large van where they could load all their materials and ride together, but the funds just aren’t there yet. A dinner event at the post two weeks ago helped raise some cash, but more donations can be given at the post, at 100 VFW Lane. The veterans also are willing to come speak to groups and classes to educate people about their service.
“The community needs to know this service is available and this is something they can use with their loved ones,” said Sandra Adcock, Donald’s wife, who said serving in the Honor Guard has helped the couple communicate about Donald’s service.
“It has really brought him out,” she said. “We never talked about the Vietnam War prior (to his joining). He feels like it’s an honor to go and do these funerals.”
It’s an honor for the veterans, but also a duty – to fallen service members and their country. Family members of the fallen veteran are given the flag from his or her casket, as well as polished rounds from the 21-gun salute representing the three words the veterans live by.
“I think it means a lot to them,” Donald Adcock said. “It really lets them know that they are not forgotten. That’s one thing you always see at our VFW post, you see different things with ‘You’re never forgotten’ written on it, and we never forget them.”
“It’s our way of saying a final farewell,” Lane added, “telling them ‘Everything’s good, everything’s OK. And we’re going to meet you on the other side.’”